PMO bans dropping off students at pedestrian gate near Kubasaki
Stars and Stripes October 29, 2004
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — In an effort to prevent the unforeseeable, the Provost Marshal Office here is cracking down on parents it says are illegally dropping their kids off at school.
Some parents have been creating a major safety hazard by dropping their children off at the pedestrian gate on Highway 330 near Kubasaki High School, said Capt. Bernard Hess, PMO operations officer.
“It’s an accident waiting to happen,” he said.
On school days, the gate is opened from 6 to 7:30 a.m. and again from 1 to 2:30 p.m. for students who walk to classes, Hess said.
The drop-off spot is on a curve, with only about 164 feet of visibility, according to Hess. Most cars don’t pull all the way off the road, creating a dangerous possibility of an accident, as the area is highly congested in the morning, Hess said. Vehicles pulling back into traffic, where the speed limit is 31 mph, creates a second danger, he said.
A call from a concerned motorist first alerted the Provost Marshal Office to the problem about a month ago. A two-day survey, Hess said, disclosed that an average of almost 40 cars dropped kids off in the morning and 32 picked them up in the afternoon. While studying the site, MPs witnessed several “close calls,” he said.
To make the area safer for students and motorists, the office has placed a military policeman there almost daily since the survey. Parents pulling over to drop off children are being informed by MPs that the area is a marked no parking-stopping zone, making such drop-offs illegal. The high school has sent out a newsletter explaining the danger to parents, Hess said, and the Provost Marshal Office has addressed the issue at town-hall meetings.
Now that the policy has been publicized, he said, the Provost Marshal Office is beginning to ticket motorists still using the area to drop off and pick up students. MPs won’t cite drivers on the spot because of the risk of causing an accident, he said, but they will write down the license plate number and mail a ticket to the registered owner, who then must appear in traffic court. An average of three to four tickets are being handed out each day, he said.
The first ticket is a warning, the provost marshal official said, but three points against a driver’s license can be assessed for the second citation and five points for the third. A fourth ticket will bring an automatic 30-day suspension; a fifth will leave the driver without a license for 90 days.
Hess said he understands why parents stop along the busy road: The only other option is to enter through one of the three gates into that side of Camp Foster and drive through congested school zones and housing areas. He recommends that parents who lack the time to drive into the camp should pull into the base exchange gate and let students walk from there down to the pedestrian gate.